February 11, 2005

Can you buy happiness?

posted on livejournal in april '04

I was browsing some philosophy site last night and came across a philosopher called Epicurus. I had heard of him before but as most of the philosophy that I have been looking at recently is from the modern era I hadn't really had much chance to look at his ideas in any great depth. His philosophy was mainly about how we achieve happiness in our lives. He didn't believe that material objects can bring you much happiness but true happiness was achieved if you had the following:

1. Friendship: Epicurus says that 'Before you eat or drink anything, carefully consider who you eat and drink with rather than what you eat or drink: for feeding without a friend is the life of a lion of a wolf'

This is a little extreme but I think what he is trying to say is that it doesn't matter if we have all the worldly goods we want, if we have no one to share them with then what's the point. And conversely, if we have little it doesn't really matter as long as we have someone to share what little we have with, then we can be happy.

2. Freedom: For this he says that 'We should free ourselves from the prison of everyday affairs and politics'

By doing this, the simple life you would lead does not affect you or friends status because by distancing yourself from the commercial world you cease to judge yourself on a material basis. By living this way you have nothing to prove.

3. Thought: By thinking about a problem that one may have, we are able to find its essential aspects emerge. Once we know these aspects then we can remove the problem or the secondary, aggravating characteristics.

Given that Epicurus in 341BC I thought this was a rather interesting way of thinking considering the emphasis put on material possessions in today's society. To a certain extend I believe that this Epicurean way of thinking about achieving happiness is more relevant today than in his era. But this would mean that a lot of the developed world are unhappy, most of the people in the developed world think that having beauty treatments, going on nights out, buying themselves that fancy house will make them happy. Often it doesn't, I wouldn't be all that surprised if they did lack one of the three properties of Epicurus' philosophy (most likely the freedom one).

I suppose this could mean that the only way to be happy in Epicurus' eyes would be to live in a commune and more or less be self-sufficient and give up your job. You would be among friends, have nothing to prove to anyone and have all the time to think that you desire. This does seem a bit rash and I am sure that people can live happy lives without being as strict as Epicurus was, I think we just have to not be worried about being judged and not feel the need to give in to the social pressures of having all the material things that we are expected to have. To a certain extend I feel that the saying 'Being a student is the best days of your lives' because generally students have all an equal status, and they are not as worried about material things compared to when they were a teenager and after they graduate. And they are more accepting (don't look down at those who have little) and hence live a more happy life then. Just a pity it only lasts for three years!!

- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. I hate student life!! Definitely the worst three years. I can't wait to go.

    11 Feb 2005, 17:30

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